I have neglected this blog over the past weeks. Various commitments and a some work teaching English means that I have not really had time to post. However I have been following the run up to Thursday’s European Parliamentary elections with some Interest. The thing that is dominating the headlines, not just here in the UK, but in France, the Netherlands and Italy too, is the rise of the “Populist” minority parties and their predicted success after Thursday. The reaction has been particularly strong in the liberal press which I tend to read and some of it has been pretty hysterical. However I have been giving the matter some serious and objective thought and I cannot help feeling that the chickens are finally coming home to roost.
I am pro European, I support the Common Market and I welcome a lot of the progressive legislation that the EU has passed, particularly in regard to workers rights. However I think that the project has been taken over and ruined by Ideological zealots who hold the principle of democracy in contempt. This is something that the political historian Perry Anderson draws attention to in a powerful essay on the disaster that has befallen Italy in the latest edition of the London Review of Books.The Single Currency was a pet project of these people and was forced through with blind eyes being turned when countries, mostly those who are in deep schtook now, cooked their books to get around the strict convergence criteria laid down by the EU. A monetary union between economies of dramatically differing strength with no common tax and fiscal policy was never going to work.
The response to the crisis from the Federalists has been predictable and bleak: there should be more integration, democracy should be further sidelined. Indeed the German Political Theorist Juergen Habermas in his book responding to the Crisis (The Crisis of the European Union: A Response: Jeurgan Habermas Polity 2012) speaks of “Post Democratic Executive Power.” And no I am not making this up. In other words more unelected bureaucrats making decisions, no room for taking important decisions to the National Vote and no room for consultation by Nation State governments. I suppose I sound like Nigel Farage here but the fact is in these respects he is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. You only have to look at the speeches on Youtube made by people like the former Prime Minister of Belgium and now leader of the Liberal Group of MEPS Guy Verhofstadt. He is totally dismissive of of those who have elected him into public office and sees democratic process as inconvenient. Nigel Farage highlights this well in a speech where he tears into the Vice President of the Commission Oli Rehn , who stated that a general election in Ireland would be “inconvenient” until that country had sorted its finances out. One can also look at the attitude to the no votes from Ireland, France and the Netherlands on the European Constitution by the Commission and the Parliament.
What worries me is that the fanatical federalists are destroying the EU that they are so passionate about. They are destroying its credibility amongst voters and on the world stage and are giving minority parties such as those run my Farage, Le Pen, Wilders and Grillo an open goal. To me there is a very real prospect now that the UK will hold a referendum and will vote to leave the EU. To me this would be a disaster but I am a democrat and the will of the British people would have to prevail. Looking at a less dramatic scenario where Britain manages to successfully re-negotiate its relationship with the EU. This will set off a house of cards where other governments will begin to demand the same and the whole projects foundations will become very shaky at the very time when consensus is needed. No wonder people in Brussels and Strasbourg are very jittery. However they only have themselves to blame.